If you’re looking for a fresh dose of inspiration to stoke your photography practice, we’ve got the kindling. These five books will light a creative fire whether you’re at the beginning of your photography journey or a seasoned professional.
Words by Grace Wright
A great book stays with you. It alters and expands your perspective for the better. And with greater perspective comes new ideas, new approaches, new outcomes – all crucial ingredients for a creative practice to flourish. These are the books that have stretched the minds and sparked the curiosities of photographers all over the world.
Interaction of Colour
BY JOSEF ALBERS
This classic book by Josef Albers dissects the notion that colour is inherently subjective – that it can deceive us based on its placement, form, volume, and proximity to other colours. So if you’re still arguing with your friends about whether that dress was actually blue and black, not white and gold, this book explains why.
Interaction of Colour helps its readers develop a strong eye for colour by presenting a series of practical exercises. And once you’ve worked through them, you’ll be able to understand why some images look washed out, while others look bright and lively. Whether you decide to use your newfound knowledge in the studio or the editing room, having the ability to interpret and manipulate colours in your work will open up a new world of creative possibilities.
On Landscapes, Interiors and the Nude
BY TODD HIDO
On Landscapes, Interiors and the Nude by Todd Hido is part of a series by Aperture that documents the creative perspectives of the world’s best photographers. In Hido’s edition, he reflects on approaching the genres of landscape, interiors and nude photography through a lens of intimacy, sharing his thoughts on narrative and storytelling in the process.
Here’s an excerpt: ‘I like when the whole story is not entirely evident in the picture. I’m intrigued more when I don’t understand exactly what’s happening. Often times, what’s not shown is of more interest. It activates the imagination and the senses. There’s a kind of pleasure in not knowing, in having to pay attention. The picture, then, is not contained by what’s in the frame. Raising this kind of ambiguity is the work that art can do.’
Also in the series is a book by Larry Fink on composition, a book by Mary Ellen Mark on portraiture, and another by Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb on street photography and the poetic image.
“Whether you decide to use your newfound knowledge in the studio or the editing room, having the ability to interpret and manipulate colours in your work will open up a new world of creative possibilities.”
BY ANNIE LEIBOVITZ
Annie Leibovitz has had one of the most incredible careers in contemporary photography. So it follows that a book delving into her experiences would be as gripping as her photos. In At Work you can expect stories about what it was like touring with the Rolling Stones, traveling with Barack Obama during the primaries in 2008, documenting the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon and covering the OJ Simpson murder trial.
Leibovitz is candid about her creative process throughout the telling of these stories we all wish we’d lived ourselves. She discusses her experiences in great detail, offering invaluable insights into the mind of a visual genius. Alongside some of her deeper musings, Leibovitz reveals the name of her first camera, what her most frequently used lenses are, and her favourite lighting set up. She also takes the time to answer questions like ‘where do you get your ideas?’ and ‘how much direction do you give?’ making this book a great one for hobbyists and professionals alike.
“Filled with quotable morsels like, ‘to collect photographs is to collect the world’, this is the perfect book to take on a holiday and digest slowly.”
BY SUSAN SONTAG
On Photography is a succinct but profound collection of essays by Susan Sontag on the ways in which photographs shape our reality. Filled with quotable morsels like, ‘to collect photographs is to collect the world’, this is the perfect book to take on a holiday and digest slowly.
Although it was written in 1977, the book’s analysis into the place of photographs in our lives remains relevant in the ever-changing landscape of social media and contemporary photography. Sontag’s words will make you ponder the power of photos, and rethink why you take them to begin with.
The Artist’s Way
BY JULIA CAMERON
If you’ve been feeling stuck in a rut with your photography, or you’ve been lacking a sense of curiosity in your work, this book is the antidote. Having worked with writers who can’t put pen to paper, painters who can’t dream up new artworks, and businessmen who can’t loosen up, Cameron has developed a tried and tested roadmap out of the dense, uninspiring neighbourhood we call creative block. Although not strictly a photography book, The Artist’s Way is important reading for photographers.
While the book guides you through a series of challenges to recover your artistic courage, it only has two non-negotiables. The first, is that you take yourself on a solo date each week so you have space to think. And the second, is that you write three pages each morning. Three pages of your stressors, hopes, and any other thoughts that might pop up.
Spending so much time inside your own head may at first seem silly or self-indulgent, but you’ll soon find that it clears out the cobwebs of everyday worries and leaves space for your mind to conjure up a flurry of new ideas. If you’re still skeptical, consider Cameron’s position that, “what we resist is what we most need”, and go pick up a copy of her book. We’re certain you (or your photos) will thank us later.